What to ask from your job
Whether you agree with it or not, life is returning to some kind of normal in the United States. At the airport. In hotels. In stadiums. But at work, many of us are still confronting some fundamental questions: How do I want to spend my days? Who do I want to spend my days with? What really matters to me?
Winston Churchill said “never let a crisis go to waste.” With that in mind, I believe the this pandemic is an opportunity for each of us to step back and evaluate our priorities.
Today’s post provides you with ideas for how to think about your work. My hope is that these ideas prompt you to take a few minutes to reflect on your own work and your priorities. And hopefully the frameworks below offer you a helpful approach.
Three Fundamental Motivators
In his book Drive, Daniel Pink draws upon academic research (Harlow and Deci) to outline three fundamental elements to that go into a truly motivating job:
Mastery - “the urge to get better at something that matters”
Autonomy - “the desire to direct our own lives”
Purpose - “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”
Pink argues that the modern organizations are winning by harnessing these instrinsic motivations among their people. And companies that still rely on outdated, extrinsic motivations (e.g. “carrots and sticks”) are falling behind.
“Work consists mainly of simple, not particularly interesting tasks. The only way to get people to do this is to incentivize them properly and monitor them carefully”
This quote from an early 1900s management guru captures a widely-held view during the industrial era. But in the 21st century, Pink points to companies that are succeeding by focusing on providing their people with a sense of mastery, autonomy and purpose, like Atlassian, Zappos, JetBlue W.L. Gore & Associates.
Taking your pulse at work: three frameworks
Pink’s framework is powerful. But I’m guessing you have a more granular checklist for evaluating a job. Your checklist may include the people, job security and compensation. Whatever matters most to you, it’s valuable to have a framework for assessing your job.
Here are a frameworks to consider:
Stack rank your job attributes - write a list of the 5 - 7 job attributes that matter most to you. Then stack rank your list in order of importance. Now score your past few jobs using your stacked ranked list of priority job attributes. Ideally, the scores should align with the jobs that were most rewarding. Next, apply the same approach to your current job. Or to a new job you are considering. The aim is to have a quantifiable way to assess job fit against your priorities.
Four Lists - keep a running list with four categories: (1) things I love doing, (2) things I’m exceptional at, (3) things I hate doing, (4) things I’m bad at. Take regular stock (monthly or quarterly) of how your four lists align with how you spend your time at work. (source: Cathy Gordon, Molly Graham).
For more helpful exercises and templates, I highly recommend Brie Wolfson’s essay “Ditch Your To Do Lists and Use These Docs to Make More Impact.”
Company size & career stages
What you get from a job is heavily impacted by the size of the organization. But it is important to remember that what you want from your job changes during different stages of your career. Below, Josh Elman provides a valuable reminder about the benefits of shifting between large and small organizations during different stages of your career.
If you found this post useful, I hope you’ll share it with others.
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